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Medellin-based multinational electric-power generator Celsia announced May 4 that its first quarter (1Q) net income rose 43% year-on-year, to COP$166 billion (US$40.4 million).

Revenues also rose 33.6%, to COP$1.3 trillion (US$317 million), while consolidated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) jumped 35%, to COP$455 billion (US$108 million).

Celsia – a division of industrial giant Grupo Argos – credited the profits jump to “higher generation, a better energy sale price, and income from the use and connection of networks driven by the higher independent power producer price (IPP).”

As for future “green” power growth, Celsia noted that it currently has six solar-photovoltaic farms under construction, collectively representing nearly 100 megawatts (MW) of additional installed capacity.

The company also touted its recent investment platform deal with Grupo Bancolombia “for the development of solar generation projects” with various companies aiming to install nearly eight MW.

Operations in Colombia accounted for COP$1.13 trillion (US$275 million) or 86.3% of 1Q 2022 revenues, “driven by higher generation and a better sale price,” while Central America operations added COP$180 billion (US$44 million), accounting for the remaining 13.7%.

The EBITDA improvement “was mainly led by the positive contribution of all businesses in Colombia,” but Central America EBITDA actually fell 20.4% year-on-year “due to the dry period that affected hydropower generation and increased the amount of energy purchased at a much higher price,” according to Celsia.

Also during 1Q 2022, “investment was almost COP$355 billion [US$86 million], including the expansions and technological updates of networks, as well as the growth of solar farms,” according to the company.

Consolidated debt finished 1Q 2022 at COP$4.8 trillion (US$1.17 billion) with a leverage ratio of 3.03-times net-debt-to-EBITDA, according to the company.

The company’s “Caoba” transmission division saw a 14.5% hike in income and 15.1% in EBITDA. “This platform today has assets of COP $1.4 trillion [US$341 million] and an expansion projection for the next four years of more than COP$1.0 trillion [US$244 million],"  the company added.

Meanwhile, the “C2 Energía” solar-power division grew 31.6% in revenues, 21.2% in EBITDA and continues to add assets. “Between this and next year the solar division will reach a total operating capacity of 300-MW,” according to Celsia.

As for the “Tesorito” thermal-power generation project, this unit “is in the final phase of construction, which will start operating in the second half of this year, with 200-MW of natural-gas-fired generation capacity, equivalent to supplying approximately 950,000 homes,” according to Celsia.

On another front, Celsia’s recent alliance with Medellin-based supermarket giant Grupo Éxito is committed to planting 1 million native trees in Colombia.

“The goal is for Grupo Éxito, together with its collaborators, allies, clients and suppliers, to contribute 500,000 trees and Celsia an additional 500,000, which will be planted through the ‘ReverdeC’ program in strategic ecosystems to increase forest cover and the ecological restoration of hydrographic basins throughout the country,” Celsia added.

Medellin-based multinational electric-power-transmission builder-operator, highways concessionaire and telecom services provider ISA announced May 4 that its first quarter (1Q) 2022 net income fell 15% year-on-year, to COP$431 billion (US$105 million).

The company blamed the profit decline “mainly due to higher financial expenses caused by higher inflation levels, mainly in Chile and Brazil,” according to ISA.

Despite the profits dip, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) actually rose by 16.7%, to COP$2 trillion (US$488 million), exceeding its budgeted 1Q 2022 EBITDA target by 20.7%, according to the company.

Operating revenues rose 17% year-on-year, to COP2.8 trillion (US$684 million), “mainly due to the positive impact of macroeconomic variables in Brazil and Colombia, and the entry into operation of transmission projects since 1Q 2021,” according to ISA.

During the latest quarter, corporate assets rose 3.7% year-on-year, to COP$64 trillion (US$15.6 billion). Investments hit COP$789 billion (US$193 million), while consolidated financial debt totaled COP$27.8 trillion (US$6.8 billion), 1% lower than in 1Q 2021.

By business unit, the electric power transmission group saw revenues rise 23% year-on-year, thanks to entry-into-operation of transmission lines in Peru and Brazil.

The road concessions unit saw revenues rise 5.4%, “mainly due to higher returns on financial assets and higher revenues from the operation and maintenance of concessions and toll management in Chile,” according to ISA.

The telecommunications unit saw a 9% hike in revenues “mainly due to higher sales of connectivity services, sales of capacities and other telecommunications services in Colombia and Peru, and the growth of the ‘Over-the-Top-Operators’ segment in Colombia,” according to ISA.

Corporate-wide net financial expenses rose 67% year-on-on-year, because of higher interest expenses, a higher debt load to finance growth, and a temporarily-unfavorable Colombian-peso exchange rate in Chile, which included dollar-denominated investments in Chilean energy projects, according to the company.

Medellin-based multinational supermarket and dry-goods retailer Grupo Exito announced May 3 that its first quarter (1Q) 2022 net income dropped 24% year-on-year, to COP$64 billion (US$15.9 million), from COP$85 billion (US$21 million) in 1Q 2021.

However, sales actually rose 22% year-on-year, to COP$4.37 trillion (US$1.08 billion), while recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) likewise rose 15.8% year-on-year, to COP$355 billion (US$88 million).

The company blamed the profits decline on “a higher tax rate than in the same quarter of the previous year and higher interest rates.”

On the other hand, the boost in EBITDA came as a result of “great commercial dynamism and operational efficiencies in the three countries where it has a presence,” namely Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay.

“The strengthening of the omnichannel strategy in Colombia allowed e-commerce and direct channels to reach a share of 11.8% of [Exito’s total Colombia] sales in the quarter,” according to the company.

Meanwhile, “innovative formats continue to be important levers of differentiation and competitiveness. ‘Success Wow’ represented 29.5% of the brand’s total sales while ‘Carulla FreshMarket’ took 46.3%. Likewise, ‘Super Inter Vecino’ took 47% and ‘Surtimayorista’ took 4.7% of the total sales of the operation in Colombia.

“Sales from electronic and direct commerce channels in Colombia reached $395.8 billion [US$98 million] in the quarter and already represent 11.8% of the company’s total sales,” according to Exito.

“The diversification strategy of complementary businesses, mainly real estate, continued to contribute to the result. The occupancy rate of shopping centers reached 93.1% in Colombia and 89.6% in Argentina in March.

“The gradual recovery of the economy in Uruguay, benefited by the tourist season, was reflected in a growth in sales of 11.8% in local currency, higher than the annualized inflation. A higher recurring EBITDA margin of the operation in that country (11.2%) was the result of greater productivity and strict control of expenses.

“The participation in sales of direct and electronic commerce channels in Uruguay was 2.6%. The stores that operate under the ‘Fresh Market’ model participated with 46.6% of total sales, growing 13.7 points more than the non-reformed stores.

“In Argentina, ‘Grupo Libertad’ sales in local currency grew by 62.4% -- above the high level of inflation -- and benefited by economic reactivation and the result of electronic and direct commerce channels, which reached a share of total sales of 2.3%,” the company added.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on May 2 unveiled a new report finding that the Colombian government continues to exercise sound economic, social and fiscal policies – even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, its unavoidable economic consequences, massive influx of millions of desperate Venezuelans -- but facing potential reversals from upcoming elections.

Assuming Colombia won’t suffer a dramatic political-economic reversal and would continue with its capitalist social democracy, the IMF just approved “a successor two-year arrangement for Colombia under the Flexible Credit Line (FCL), designed for crisis prevention, of about US$9.8 billion,” according to IMF, the global economic stabilizer for its 190 member nations.

“Colombia qualifies for the FCL by virtue of its very strong economic fundamentals and institutional policy frameworks and track record of implementing very strong policies and commitment to maintaining such policies,” according to IMF.

“Prior to the pandemic in 2020, Colombia had been on a path of gradually reducing access under its FCL arrangements, and the new arrangement resumes this path. The arrangement should boost market confidence, and combined with the comfortable level of international reserves, provide insurance against external downside risks.”

“Colombia has very strong economic fundamentals and policy frameworks anchored by a credible inflation targeting-regime, a solid medium-term fiscal framework, a flexible exchange rate, and effective financial sector supervision and regulation,” added IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Sayeh.

“The authorities remain firmly committed to maintaining very strong macroeconomic policies going forward. There is also broad consensus in Colombia on the importance of preserving very strong policy frameworks.

“Colombia also has a very strong track record of macroeconomic management, which allowed the authorities to deliver a comprehensive response to the pandemic, promote a steadfast economic recovery, continue to integrate Venezuelan migrants into Colombian society, and support rising living standards.

“With a robust recovery underway but risks tilted to the downside, Colombia has taken steps to normalize policies from a crisis footing and manage higher inflation, while strengthening public finances and reducing external imbalances.

“Meanwhile, international reserves remain adequate. The structural reform agenda rightly aims at fostering inclusive and sustainable growth and enhancing external competitiveness,” Saveh concluded.

Among the IMF report highlights:

-- “Colombia’s strong economic recovery in 2021 places it among the region’s growth leaders. GDP growth for 2021 was 10.6%, on par with Chile and Peru as the fastest growing economies in the region. Buoyed by pent-up household consumption and higher credit growth, GDP growth is forecast at 5.8% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023,” according to the report.

-- “Inflation has been well above the central bank’s target of 3% since August 2021, prompting the central bank to raise rates and to accelerate the pace of tightening. Amid strong domestic demand, supply-side constraints, and sharply rising commodity prices, inflation climbed to 8.5% in March, well above the central bank’s target.

“As supply constraints and commodity price pressures are alleviated, staff expects inflation to gradually return to the central bank’s target by mid-2024, although inflation risks are to the upside.

-- “Alongside the recovery, Colombia’s public finances are showing signs of improving with scope to make further gains. The fiscal deficit was smaller than expected in 2021. With stronger growth and broadly unchanged spending, the central government fiscal deficit was 8.2% of GDP in 2021, about 1.5% of GDP lower than in the 2021 Medium-Term Fiscal framework target.

“A lower fiscal deficit (6.1% of GDP) than what is required to comply with the new fiscal rule (7.9% of GDP) appears within reach this year, given higher tax collections due to the stronger-than-expected economic recovery and restraint on primary expenditures.

-- “The current account deficit widened further alongside demand-led growth. Alongside strong domestic absorption and higher import prices, the current account deficit widened noticeably from 3.4% in 2020 to 5.7% of GDP in 2021 . . . assessed as being temporary due to pandemic-related effects and domestic disruptions to oil production.

“FDI [foreign direct investment] has remained a strong and stable source of financing, while portfolio inflows were positive in 2021 but decelerated as investors adjusted their positions due to Colombia’s sovereign ratings downgrade.

--“ Colombia’s banks have withstood the pandemic well and the financial system remains sound. Credit growth, particularly consumer loans, appears to be entering an upswing amid a stronger growth outlook. Businesses and households improved their balance sheets, but leverage ratios remain elevated, particularly for non-financial firms. Banks exhibit strong capital and liquidity buffers, underpinned by effective supervision.”

--"While Colombia’s balance of payments and fiscal position stand to benefit from higher hydrocarbon prices, rising and volatile international prices for food and energy, as well as more persistent disruptions in global supply chains would exacerbate domestic inflationary pressures.

--"Notwithstanding the recent slowdown in migrant flows, higher-than-expected migration flows from Venezuela would raise near-term fiscal and external deficits. These shocks could heighten Colombia’s fiscal risks and are likely to be exacerbated by political uncertainty from the upcoming national election cycle,” the report adds.

Medellin-based multinational foods giant Grupo Nutresa announced April 29 that its first quarter (1Q) 2022 net income rose 28.7% year-on-year, to COP$295 billion (US$74.6 million).

Sales likewise jumped 27% year-on-year, to COP$3.6 trillion (US$910 million), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 17.8%, to COP$468 billion (US$118 million), with EBITDA margin at 13%.

For this latest quarter, “double-digit growth was reported in all the Group’s businesses and geographies,” according to Nutresa.

“In Colombia, sales amounted to COP$2.2 trillion [US$556 million], 26.5% higher than in [1Q 2021] the previous year, and represent 61.4% of the group’s total income.

“On the other hand, international sales amounted to COP$1.4 trillion [US$354 million], with a growth of 27.7%, and represent 38.6% of the total. In dollars, these international revenues are US$355.4 million, 16.1% higher than the first quarter of 2021.”

Financial income jumped 80% year-on-year, to COP$6.06 billion (US$1.5 million), while financial expenses likewise rose 25%, “mainly due to the higher cost of debt,” according to Nutresa.

“During 2021, we made progress in the digitalization of operations and the development of the value chain, which allows us to improve the relationship with suppliers, customers, buyers and consumers.

“We also created native digital brands, improved brand relationships with consumers, consolidated digital customer service in Colombia and the United States, and strengthened non-face-to-face sales through our own digital platforms and with allies,” the company added.

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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